Climate Change Threatens Pika, Lawsuits Filed

Conservation groups recently filed lawsuits against federal and California state agencies that will seek to protect the mountain-dwelling American pika against the effects of global warming.

The American pika is a small rabbit relative that lives on mountain peaks in the western United States. Because these small mammals have adapted to cold alpine conditions, pikas are intolerant of high temperatures and can die from overheating when exposed for just a few hours.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to designate the pika as endangered or threatened, due to global warming, and demand protection of the mammal under the California Endangered Species Act and federally under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Climate change is likely to drive a third of the world’s species to extinction. Worse, it’s the species living on mountaintops, which until now have been free from human impact, that will be hardest hit,” said Dr. Stuart Pimm, professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University.

“The American pika is an obvious example of such a species at considerable risk from climate change,” said Pimm, who has spent decades studying the global loss of biological diversity.